"If I Were Finance Minister... ": P Chidambaram's Quip Cracks Up Room

P Chidambaram: "Nothing that the government will do in the next 60 days can change the state of the economy"

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'If I Were Finance Minister... ': P Chidambaram's Quip Cracks Up Room

P Chidambaram was finance minister in the UPA-II government


New Delhi: 

Former finance minister P Chidambaram today took a swipe at the NDA government's last interim budget before the national elections due in May, amid reports that the government was open to sacrificing fiscal discipline to boost the economy.

Mr Chidambaram was speaking on the Rafale deal controversy at a press conference today when reporters asked what he would have done if he were to present the vote on account this year.

"If I was the finance minister in the NDA government today, I would have resigned," the former finance minister quickly replied, drawing laughter from the room.

Mr Chidambaram was finance minister in the UPA-II government. In the union budget a year before the national elections in 2009, he had announced a massive Rs 60,000 farm loan waiver, which analysts in hindsight consider as one of the key factors that helped the UPA-II retain power.

"We don't expect anything good from this government... Nothing that the government will do in the next 60 days can change the state of the economy... It's perilous, every indicator is worrisome," he told news agency ANI.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is in the US for treatment amid speculation that he may be unable to present the interim budget on February 1.

The government is keen on keeping farmers happy with measures that could include direct transfers of funds into farmers' bank accounts and interest-free loans for them, news agency Reuters reported today quoting unnamed sources. These measures planned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he braces for a difficult general election may cost more than Rs 1 lakh crore, the report said.

The BJP does not consider the finance ministry's plan to keep the fiscal deficit to 3.3 per cent of gross domestic product in the current April-March fiscal year as "sacrosanct", BJP's economic affairs spokesman Gopal Krishna Agarwal told Reuters, indicating the party favoured an expansionary economic policy that would give space to growth-boosting measures as inflation stays low.

Moody's Investors Service has already said India's federal fiscal deficit target could slip to about 3.4 per cent of GDP in the current fiscal year because of revenue shortfalls from GST collections, lower excise duty and below-target government asset sales.

With inputs from agencies

Disclaimer: NDTV has been sued for 10,000 crores by Anil Ambani's Reliance Group for its coverage of the Rafale deal.

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